All Kindle, all the time

Book headlines are starting to look like all Kindle, all the time.

If you scan book headlines this holiday season, you can hardly help noticing that it's starting to seem like "all Kindle, all the time." (Or at least, "all e-books, all the time." Kindle does have competitors, although sometimes that's easy to forget.)

Look at today for instance: What are the big book stories? Here's a sampling: "Amazon: Kindle Books Outsold Real Books This Christmas" (Wired). "Amazon Shares Up After Kindle Boosts e-Book Sales" (Reuters). "Why Bezos Was Surprised by the Kindle's Success" (Newsweek).

Of course, not all the e-book news is positive. "Is Amazon Working Backward?" asks the New York Times in a blog post that suggests that customer satisfaction with the Kindle dwindles as customers come to know the product better. And the Barnes & Noble Nook apparently suffered a crisis on Christmas as a glut of book orders (presumably from new owners, thrilled to have discovered the device under their Christmas trees) clogged the system. According to Engadget, "All attempts at downloading an ebook [on the Nook on Christmas day] ... were greeted with a 'Queued: Will complete shortly' message."

But in truth, such glitches are nothing compared to the stats Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos recounts in his interview with Newsweek. Amazon is still playing coy and will not release sales figures for the Kindle. But Bezos does say that, "[T]oday, for titles that have a Kindle edition, Kindle book sales are 48 percent of the physical sales. That's up from 35 percent in May." There is every reason to take him seriously when he says, "The business is growing very quickly.... We feel like Kindle is bigger than we are."

If you're a reader, is this good news or bad? Perhaps it depends on how you like to read. On the one hand, Bezos is rather gleeful at the degree to which Kindle's success flattens Apple CEO Steve Jobs's prediction that the device will fail because, "people don't read anymore."

On the other, if you're a reader who loves paper-and-ink books, you might feel a chill when you hit this exchange toward the end of Bezos's interview. Newsweek: "Do you think that the ink-on-paper book will eventually go away?" Bezos: "I do."

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor’s book editor. You can follow her on Twitter at

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